The Flyers season may as well have ended yesterday, a 4-1 loss to the Islanders that put Philly's playoff chances at just above five percent. And yet Ilya Bryzgalov sat the night out. That just seems wrong for the man who rarely gets a game off, and has become the symbol of an expensive failure of a Flyers team.
It's a bad time to be a Flyers goaltender, but a good time to be a former Flyers goaltender. The resurgent Ray Emery notched a shutout as Chicago churns its way to the West's top seed. Sergei Bobrovsky had a shutout of his own, and is nudging into the Vezina picture. Hell, I think Robert Esche found $20 on the sidewalk.
Meanwhile Bryzgalov is in year two of a nine-year, $51 million contract, and is having the worst season of his career. He's a prime buyout candidate. He's started an insane 36 of 39 games, so his benching yesterday was bound to sound the Philly media dog whistle. Sure enough, multiple outlets passed along the rumor that Bryzgalov was benched for falling asleep in a team meeting. (Teammates have spent today repeatedly insisting that Bryzgalov stayed awake, which is incredible in and of itself.)
This would all be so much easier of Bryzgalov were surly. But he's not—he's an open, modest, and semantically questionable quote machine. And after yesterday's morning skate, Bryzgalov sat down with the Courier-Post to talk about his future in Philadelphia, specifically the possibility of a buyout.
“To be honest, I don’t care,” he said. “Really, I don’t care. I have no control on this, so why should I care?”
Bryzgalov was asked if he’d like to be a Flyer next season.
“You know, I have no control in this,” he said. “I can’t read the people’s mind. I can’t project things what they’re thinking, that’s why I’m not worried about things I can’t control. I maybe want one thing and they want a different thing.”
That's constructive! Block out the stuff you can't control. What Bryzgalov can control, though (the banged-up and hapless defense in front of him notwithstanding), are his own numbers. And those aren't looking so hot. Among qualified goaltenders, he's 40th in goals against, and 41st in save percentage. What, Bryz worry?
“Stats not always reflect what’s real,” Bryzgalov said. “I remember once Wayne Gretzky told me stats are for losers.”
(I don't think Wayne Gretzky ever said this.)
Perhaps after the game, the Flyers and Islanders front offices met to share tips on filling out a goalie's amnesty paperwork. But Bryzgalov, at 32, still has some more good years left in the tank. I'm sure Philadelphia fans will love seeing him go elsewhere—to say, Long Island, who are on the upswing and will need a No. 1 backstop—and thrive.